A boating holiday is a wonderful way of soaking up some sunshine and rich culture in France, and the Canal du Midi is the perfect place to do so. The 150 mile long waterway runs through the south of France, past historical towns like Narbonne.
Narbonne is an important settlement, being the first colonial Roman city to be founded outside Italy. The bustling town boasts some fascinating ancient landmarks, interesting museums and monuments that you can see all year round, but if you travel during the summer months you'll also be able to enjoy a number of festivals and events. Read on to find out more.
Narbonne Organ Concert Festival
Beginning in May and running for over six months, the Narbonne Organ Concert Festival sees the Friends of the Organs of Narbonne display their skills at the local cathedal. Music fans can enjoy a vast repertoire of beautiful pieces, performed either as solo works or as accompaniment.
Fete de la Musique
June 21st will see the Fete de la Musique - or the National Music Festival - take place. The popular event brings together professional and amateur musicians for a night of music in the streets, and the atmosphere is one of celebration.
If you can't make the event, fear not, the town has a special programme of concerts held at its various heritage sites on one Saturday every month. The one-hour concerts take place in the late afternoon and are free to attend.
National Festival of Amateur Theatre
July sees a number of events also take place in town, one of which is the National Festival of Amateur Theatre. Spanning ten days, the event comprises theatrical presentations from a range of both present day and classical authors. The festival has been running more over 25 years and usually takes place at the beginning of the month at the Cour de la Madeleine. The Gothic cathedral is spectacularly lit up for the event, making it all the more magical.
The Mediterranean Horizon event is an annual summer festival centring on Mediterranean culture with the aim of bringing together people from all Mediterranean backgrounds. The festival, which is held in mid-July, includes street music, exhibitions and folklore, as well as food stands selling characteristically tasty fare.
On July 14th, Narbonne will be celebrating Bastille Day, which is France's national day and a time for celebration. The town will this year be marking the occasion with a concert from the Laurent Contat Orchestra, which will be followed by a grand display of fireworks.
Fontfroide Festival of Music and History
Between July 15th and 19th, the settlement of Fontfroide will be holding its annual Festival of Music and History. Located around 15 km south of Narbonne, Fontfroide is renowned for its beautiful old Cistercian abbey, which was established in the Middle Ages and is remarkably well preserved.
The abbey will be the location for performances to be given as part of the event, with the prestigious halls of the buildings having, in past years, hosted famous names like Monserrat Figueras and Jordi Savall.
Festival Musique au Present
Also in July is the Festival Musique au Present, or the town's Contemporary Music Festival, which is held to encourage and support the creation of local music across all genres. Meet artists and take part in masterclasses as part of the event.
Heading into August, local traders and shopkeepers are given the opportunity to take their wares into the streets of the town and offer bargains during the summer sales. Browse local produce and pick up a bottle of wine or two to enjoy back on your boat.
Memories of Days Gone By
The Memories of Days Gone By event takes place in the heart of the town and brings together more than 100 artists and performers to celebrate the history of Narbonne. Expect to take in street theatre, shows of acrobatics, animal displays and a range of other forms of entertainment.
Festival of St Just and St Pasteur
On August 16th, Narbonne celebrates the Festival of St Just and St Pasteur, as well as the ripening of the vines. During the day, folk groups put on parades to mark the Veraison, which is the point in the season when the grapes turn red, and celebrations are held too for the patron saints of the town's cathedral.